If Liverpool’s owners get their way and the club eventually relocates to a new 73,000-capacity stadium, it will be a sad day in my eyes.
As a Manchester City fan, I’ve seen it all before. Although I would be the last to deny that the migration of my dearly beloved from Maine Road to the spectacular City of Manchester Stadium was a positive move, it stands to reason that a little part of the club was lost forever during that period.
Maine Road, as ill-equipped and run-down as it became, was the heart and soul of Manchester City Football Club and fully deserves the nostalgically romanticised memories possessed by myself and many others.
It is for this reason that I am saddened by the thought that great European nights at Anfield could end up being little more than a misty-eyed daydream to many Liverpool supporters should the club decide to move house. Can it ever be the same at a new stadium?
I had, for a long time, been sceptical about the supposedly “magnificent” European nights at Anfield, believing that they were little more than a myth conjured up by the likes of ITV’s Clive Tyldesley during his pre-match waffle.
However, on the 10th of March 2009, my opinion changed. In the words of The Monkees: ‘I’m a Believer’.
It was a date that will be remembered by many as the night that Liverpool thumped Real Madrid 4-0 to progress to the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals. It wasn’t my first experience of Anfield; a couple of weeks previously I’d been a spectator as City battled their way to a hard-fought draw against Liverpool. On that occasion I was surprised at just how poor the home support was, further fuelling my belief that the Anfield myth was just that - a myth.
I was at the Real Madrid game courtesy of uefa.com, who had
presented me with an unbelievable work experience opportunity
via one of my lecturers, a freelance journalist for European
football’s governing body. My responsibility on the night was to
write updates on goals and incidents for the live-blog feature on
the UEFA website and then send over quotes from the post-match
Upon my arrival a couple of hours before kick off, it was clear
that the stadium was already abuzz with anticipation and my
view of the pitch from the press-box inside the ground could
hardly have been more perfect. To sum it up: I was that close I
could actually smell the freshly cut turf. Before long, as a full moon
shone down from above, the two teams were out on the pitch and
the sound of Liverpool’s anthem rang out around the famous arena.
Even the most neutral of spectators like myself couldn’t possibly resist a shiver down the spine during the pre-match rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and it clearly fired up the players as the game began at a frightening pace.
Liverpool started brightly and it wasn’t long before their early pressure resulted in a simple goal for the dazzling Fernando Torres. The atmosphere inside the ground was electrifying, the noise deafening and the famous Kop, quite literally, bouncing.
A pair of Steven Gerrard goals plus a fourth from Andrea Dossena later and Liverpool had achieved an unexpected, extraordinary result against the Spanish champions. The match was a superb spectacle and was perfectly complemented by the relentless support from both sets of fans in the stands.
It’s difficult not to get carried away and exaggerate how much I enjoyed the experience but it’s no lie that European nights at Anfield are a bit special. Moving to a new stadium will undoubtedly provide more revenue for the club and increased access to tickets for the fans, but if it comes at the risk of jeopardising nights like this then is it ultimately worth it? Speaking as an outsider, I think not.
By Dan Burke, Website Editor
Great view: Dan takes his place in the Anfield press box; YouTube: The Kop in full cry on a European night
Standing next to the Champions League Trophy. Looks nice...